In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at three of last season’s roster players. Specifically, I’ll look at some of the changes two players made during the offseason to help them prepare for 2022-23.
First, I’ll look at Mitch Marner’s desire to put on some healthy muscle. Second, I’ll share that Wayne Simmonds knows that he’s fighting for a job and has worked hard during the offseason to prepare for that fight.
Third, I’ll share news from earlier today that John Tavares has suffered an upper-body injury and didn’t practice. What that means, we’re not sure of yet.
Item One: Mitch Marner Comes Into Camp Stronger
Both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner had great seasons in 2021-22, but it wasn’t because either player started well. In fact, Matthews missed several games at the start of the season as a result of his surgery and Marner didn’t score a goal during his first eight games of the season.
Both come into the beginning of the season determined to do better. Marner added a couple of things to his life during the offseason. First, he’s newly engaged. Second, he worked to get stronger. The six-foot winger added almost 10 pounds of muscle, jumping from 172 pounds when last season began to 181 pounds to start this season.
Marner made some lifestyle changes over the summer. He’s eating healthier and has started to focus on using nutrition to build muscle. Perhaps he’s planning to get even more physical? Last season, he registered a career-high in hits with 75.
Marner noted that “a couple of pounds can make you feel a little stronger.”
He added that the extra muscle will help him “cut into the ice a little more, take guys on one-on-one a little more.” He also noted that “we’ll see when the real season starts. Now, it’s just maintaining that weight and keeping healthy with it and seeing how I feel with it.”
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Head coach Sheldon Keefe agreed: “Early indications are that he’s come into camp looking good. Certainly doesn’t look like a guy who’s resting on what he accomplished last season. He’s looking to build on it.”
Item Two: Wayne Simmonds Is Fighting for a Job
It seems that a lot of fans (including me, I admit) had already crossed Wayne Simmonds off the team’s depth chart permanently. Simmonds seems to have different thoughts. He was one player I specifically watched on the ice Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, and I had a different take on his game than some of the other reviews I read.
I thought Simmonds looked quicker and more able to keep up with the play. He also looked more determined to be part of the action offensively. In short, I noticed him. My take? He didn’t look bad at all.
He knows he’s going to have to work even for a fourth-line role on this team. And it looks like he prepared his best for that role.
Simmonds noted, “I felt I was a little slow off the hop last year.” As a result, he made one of his main focuses of the summer working “to get quicker in my first two strides and go from there.”
Last season had to have been rough on the veteran. He only scored a single goal after the New Year and averaged less than 10 minutes (9:20) a game. After Game 2 of the playoffs, he was a healthy scratch. Simmonds gets it that he’s competing with a number of younger players in training camp.
As I say, I had Simmonds written off this season. Perhaps I was early in that judgment. His extra work to become quicker seems to have paid off. But, will it be enough to keep him around?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It was reported this morning that John Tavares had suffered an upper-body injury and won’t take part in Tuesday’s training camp. There’s no word on how extensive the injury might be.
Tavares is coming off a solid 2021-22 season where he scored 25 goals for the 10th time in his career. Of those goals, 10 came on the powerplay. Although he was partnered with Marner during Saturday’s preseason game, during this training camp he’s been skating as usual with William Nylander and most recently winger Denis Malgin.
Assuming things are as they’ve been, if Tavares missed any time at the start of the regular season, look for Alex Kerfoot to jump into his spot.
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The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf